Heart palpitations

These are another symptom of the menopause. They are often accompanied by hot flushes and anxiety but not every woman experiences these.

What are heart palpitations?

This is a medical term used to describe a rapid, irregular heartbeat. This heartbeat can be much stronger than usual and feel as if it is thumping in your chest. This often causes feelings of anxiety and panic at that time.

Heart palpitations are also a symptom of a panic attack.

They occur on an irregular basis over 2 to 3 months and can increase the heart rate by 16 beats per minute. Some women have experienced a heart rate of 200 beats per minute due to palpitations.

The medical term for palpitations is ‘cardiac arrhythmia’.

How common are heart palpitations?

Not every women going through the menopause will experience heart palpitations but then every woman is different when it comes to this and other symptoms.

You may find that you experience heart palpitations, hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness whereas another woman will not experience any of these symptoms.

The severity of these symptoms also varies from one woman to another.

This does not mean that you will automatically get palpitations during the menopause only that there is a good chance that you will do so.

These heart palpitations disappear after a few months which are usually due to your hormones settling down after a period of turbulence.

Causes of heart palpitations

These occur due to constantly fluctuating hormone levels. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone are rising and falling during this time and this change puts a strain upon your body.

This manifests itself as hot flushes, sweating and a pounding heartbeat.

Heart palpitations often occur in the first few months of taking HRT.

Triggers for heart palpitations

Heart palpitations can be caused by other factors apart from the menopause. Even if you are at the right age for the menopause it is a good idea to get yourself checked out by your GP.

Do this even if you are going through the menopause. The likelihood is that your heart palpitations are caused by the menopause - which is entirely normal –but if you are worried about this then speak to your GP.

Other causes of heart palpitations

This can be caused by a variety of factors which include too much caffeine and other stimulants; dehydration, anaemia and thyroid disorders.

Stress is another cause. If you are suffering from chronic stress then you may find that this causes an irregular heartbeat which is a sign that the body is under too much pressure.

In a few cases they can be an indicator of heart disease although this is rare in women who are in the early stages of the menopause.

Palpitations and the menopause tend to go hand in hand but if your heart rate is excessively high, is accompanied by dizziness, chest pain or feeling faint then seek urgent medical attention.

Treating heart palpitations

There are a few steps you can take to reduce these. Try to limit the amount of stimulants you consume, for example coffee as these tend to over stimulate the heart.

Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, diet pills and decongestants all help to speed up the heart.

It is better to avoid these altogether as they will exacerbate these symptoms but if you this difficult to do then minimise your consumption. Switch to decaffeinated alternatives, e.g. herbal tea.

Mediation is another option. Doing a series of breathing exercises a couple of times each day can help you to relax as well as slowing down a racing heart. Yoga and Pilates are other similar options.

Find out more in our menopause self help section.

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